The fifth mini-contest was held in April 2008. It challenged contestants to describe a “single moment in time just after something happened” that, by itself, implies a story. Entries had to be between 50 and 100 words long.
We received 48 entries. Two reading judges selected 10 contenders from all the entries received. Five prize judges labeled one entry as their “favorite” and rated the rest as either “yes,” “maybe,” or “no.” As you look at the winners and honorable mentions below, you might notice some familiar names from past issues, but we have some new winners too.
Third Place ($5) by John C. Waugh
Morning sky frames four horsemen looking back to a lone oak where a fire fades. A soiled bag there says Wells Fargo Stagecoach. Three tin cups lay scattered among sandy boot prints. More prints lead to and from a propped-up stone beside a freshly dug hole.
The air here is perfectly still–yet three hanged men twist slowly beneath the tree. One man’s shirt is torn back from a chest covered with cigar burns. Sun illumines a star on one horseman’s chest and warms a lizard on an ochre rock.
Second Place ($10) by Kirsty Logan
The boy looks at the spider; the spider looks at the boy. Neither of them looks at the abandoned toothbrush, or the shattered tumbler, or the snapped fly-swatter that litter the bathroom floor. The boy’s captor may only be the size of a thumbnail, but he lurks just above the door: the room’s only exit. The spider waits.
First Place ($15) by Mark Tullius
Woman, man, woman, woman, man, standing shoulder to shoulder, huddled in the corner, heads bowed. Between the backs of the purple, white, and green gowns is a sliver of space. Surgical gloves crowd the tiny bed, its virgin white cloth speckled with crimson splotches. Below a minuscule oxygen mask, a glimpse of wrinkled flesh, not the promised shade of red, but the deep blue of nightmares past and yet to come.
Honorable Mentions (no money, just fame)
Three other entries scored highly enough to earn honorable mentions.
The kitchen counters were made of gingerbread. The floor was black licorice , decorated with swirls of red. The cupboards were made of rectangular cookies with handles made of gum-drops.
The oven, of course, was made of iron. A chocolate one would be about as much use as the average politician, now wouldn’t it?
The fire under it burned brightly.
Two children with rags over their hands shoved at the door, faces red, mouths open in silent screams, straining every muscle to close it completely.
And from inside the oven came muffled screams.
(by Sheila Crosby)
Unbelieving, she stared at the sky that hung huge and gray above her blending in with the city’s shades of gray. She had heard about it raining cats and dogs but this … no one had ever told her about something like this.
Three men sitting at her feet rubbed bumps on their heads while another one was kissing her ankles. Her eyes were fixed on the last few drops while her MP3-player kept repeating the song, It’s Raining Men.
(by Katherine Kolata)
The only part of her visible is her hand and arm, the slender band of her wedding ring still encircling her finger. That she is a woman is revealed only by the hand’s slenderness, the bruise around her wrist darkening to black. The only sound is that of her soft sobbing. The rest of her remains hidden within the bedroom. The door to the hallway is ajar, the chain that secured it falling broken, moving a little as if in the breeze. Discarded just inside, a butter knife lies on the carpet, mute and useless.
(by Jennifer Povey)
Now It’s Our Turn
Three of the judges wanted to try this exercise too.
He stood in the hallway, the knob of the front door lying next to his slippered foot. The breeze raised goosebumps on his bare arms. His wife stood on the front walk, clutching her winter coat around her nightgown, ready to run. He could hear groans of pain coming from the bedroom. His right hand clutched a golf club, sticky with fresh blood. His cell phone was in his left hand, the number 911 on its screen, his thumb hovering over the “send” button. His eyes were not on the phone. They were looking toward the bedroom, narrow with intent.
(by Francis Heaney)
The man in the freshly pressed suit stands in front of his car. He stares at the key in his hand, which unlocks his mailbox, not his car. Through the front window of his first-floor apartment, a table gleams in the sun. On it one can see the man’s car key… and the key to his apartment, which locks automatically… and the man’s cell phone. In the man’s other hand is a note that says JOB INTERVIEW 415 Green St 10 AM!
It is 9:45 a.m.
(by Tarl Kudrick)
It is a small bathroom. Sitting on the toilet, wrapped in a towel, the woman’s knees nearly touch the wall. She is bent forward, chin tucked, as though looking at the appointment card in her right hand–a sloppy hand-written 9:30 next to the letters “am.” Her left arm dangles but the fingers rigidly curl around a clump of hair. Next to her is a bucket with water clinging to the sides, bottom glinting slightly in the fluorescent light. Sour vomit smells from the bucket linger underneath “shower clean” soap and the bite of bleach. The room is silent.
(by Bethany Granger)
Congratulations to the winners and our sincere thanks to everyone who entered the mini-contest.